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8 Questions Every Children’s Minister Should Ask to Help Kids Navigate Faith in a Digital Age

Fri, 03/04/2020 - 4:00pm

With church and school closures due to COVID-19, adults are leaning on technology to help with in-home learning, and parents have an unprecedented opportunity to tap technology to help children engage spiritually. A new study—Guiding Children to Discover the Bible, Navigate Technology & Follow Jesus—by Barna Group, produced in partnership with OneHope, reveals that even though tech is pervasive for kids, most parents and churches aren’t leveraging it for Bible engagement for children. 

“This is clearly seen in our findings that show a substantial dip in Bible engagement for 10–12-year-olds,” says Rob Hoskins, President of OneHope. “Right as they enter an age where they are ready for more, we’re giving them less.”

According to data in the Guiding Children study, six in 10 (58%) highly engaged Christian parents choose a church based on the children’s programming. “Regular church engagement, though important for growing a consistent faith life, doesn’t appear to have as significant an effect as regularly interacting with scripture,” says Brooke Hempell, Senior Vice President of Research at Barna.

“We feel called to reach children wherever they are,” explains Hoskins. “If they are in the digital realm, then tech is where we are going to meet them. We hope parents will commit to using whatever means necessary to develop spiritual formation and faith development tools to feed our kids from the richness of God’s word.”

Data from Guiding Children highlights several key challenges—and opportunities—for parents and ministry leaders in children’s faith formation, including the vital role of Bible engagement, the changing landscape of tech and media and the ongoing importance of church and communities in cultivating resilient faith.

This one-page infographic offers “8 Questions Every Children’s Minister Should Ask Themselves to Help Kids Navigate Faith in a Digital Age,” including:

  • Am I intentionally providing connection points for the young parents I serve?
  • Have I openly developed a plan with the parents in my ministry for when and how sensitive topics should be addressed with their children.
  • How am I strategically keeping tweens engaged in my ministry so they don’t become the teenagers who lose interest?
  • Do I see myself as a partner to the parents in my ministry?

You can download this infographic to see all of the questions. To learn more about how to guide children in their faith formation whether you’re a parent or ministry leader, check out the  Guiding Children report.

Feature image by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash.

The post 8 Questions Every Children’s Minister Should Ask to Help Kids Navigate Faith in a Digital Age appeared first on Barna Group.

Let’s Talk Technology: Barna Resources that Explore Findings from the Digital Age

Thu, 12/03/2020 - 6:00pm

In a recent study for State of the Church 2020, a year-long project exploring the current challenges and opportunities facing the Church, Barna examined how digital developments and devices are affecting the Church and the faith formation of practicing Christians. It’s no secret that technology touches almost every aspect of our lives, playing a role in everything from digitizing our calendars to allowing us to browse and apply for a home loan. The years’ worth of Barna resources listed below offer more insight into how U.S. practicing Christians perceive the presence and impact of technology in their lives.

1. OneHope President Rob Hoskins on Technology as a Tremendous Tool

Rob Hoskins, president of OneHope, comments on some of the findings from a recent study conducted jointly with Barna Group about the role of technology in children’s faith formation. Hoskins says, “This study revealed that even though tech is pervasive, most parents and churches aren’t leveraging it for Bible engagement. This is clearly seen in our findings that show a substantial dip in Bible engagement for 10–12-year-olds. Right as they enter an age where they are ready for more, we’re giving them less.”

2. U.S. Adults Believe Hate Speech Has Increased—Mainly Online

A large majority of American adults says the amount of hate crime and hate speech (meaning, speech or crimes that are motivated by racial, sexual or other prejudice) has changed in the past five years; seven in 10 (70%) say this behavior has increased. Most attribute the change to the fact that politicians are encouraging or feeding this trend (65%). Similar majorities say social media and the internet have amplified it (62%) or that it is driven by America becoming increasingly more divided as a country (61%). More than half say the internet has provided a forum for hate groups to multiply (57%), that hate crime has increased because the news has drawn attention to it (54%) or even that it has become more socially acceptable to publicly treat others with prejudice (51%). Four in 10 believe increased diversity in America has caused fear or prejudice (37%). Only a few respondents say religious organizations amplify hatred (16%).

3. Forming Family Values in a Digital Age

In his book, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper PlaceAndy Crouch explores the important role of the family not only in helping young people to navigate the demands of current technology, but also in shaping their character for the long-term. Drawing from the research Barna conducted for Andy’s book, the infographics in this article explore some of the key questions around the role of family in personal values and identity formation in a tech-heavy world where parents believe it’s harder than ever to raise children.

4. 6 Tech Habits Changing the American Home

This sneak peek of The Tech-Wise Family looks at some of the top revelations about how parents and kids relate to their devices and to each other in age when parents believe its harder than ever to raise children. Check out this article to learn more about monitoring technology, where life truly happens in the home, limiting device usage, how tech is disrupting the dinner table, and more.

5. The Trends Redefining Romance Today

The explosive growth of smartphones and digital technology has increasingly brought dating into the world of technology. Overall, almost three in 10 American adults (28%) have either tried online dating once or twice (14%), use it regularly (5%), or have used it previously, but not anymore (9%). But almost three-quarters (72%) haven’t tried it at all, and more than half (52%) would never do so. That said, of those who have never tried it, 16 percent are still open to it. Gen X (7%) and Millennials (6%) are the most regular users of online dating, and Gen X are also more likely to have tried it (37%) than any other age group. And interestingly, Millennials, those who have come of age in a digital generation, are not much more likely to be users than Boomers (27% vs 24%).

6. Evangelism in a Digital Age: An Infographic

With the ubiquitous use of social media and mobile devices, the way we communicate has evolved—and, inevitably, so has the way we talk about faith. In Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age, produced in partnership with Lutheran Hour Ministries, Barna asked American adults about how they discuss spirituality online. Through posts, comments and profiles, many Christians believe that technology and digital interactions have made evangelism easier: We found that three in 10 (28%) share their faith via social media, and almost six in 10 (58%) non-Christians say someone has shared their faith with them through Facebook. Still, spiritual conversations are fraught in a digital age, and younger generations are among the most cautious about engaging.

7. Guiding Children

Raising children to know, love and follow Jesus has always been a challenge—even before child-sized tablets, video games and YouTube were in the picture! Today, there are more demands on kids’ and parents’ time, children are exposed to sensitive topics much sooner, and parents are forced to find new ways to pass down biblical thinking in a world that often opposes Christian values. This new report, produced in partnership with OneHope, helps ministry leaders and parents band together to help guide children’s faith formation.

8. The Connected Generation

The largest study Barna has ever done, The Connected Generation, features 15,000 respondents in 25 countries and 9 languages, facilitated through a partnership with World Vision. This study of young adults 18–35-years-old shows that they are highly connected to events and people around the world, likely because of technology, but don’t always feel supported in their own relationships. Learn how to develop healthy partnerships across generations and to bring needed change to your church, organization or business.

9. Faith for Exiles

It’s easy to become discouraged by all that’s going wrong when it comes to Christianity and the emerging generation. Yet what’s going right? In fact, signs of hope are springing up all around. Barna President David Kinnaman and former executive director of Youth Specialties Mark Matlock team up to uncover five practices that contribute to resilience in this new age, “Digital Babylon.” Enter the world of resilient young adult Christians, learn how they are sustaining faith, and find hope in all that God is doing among young disciples today.

10. A New Generation of Digital Natives, Gen Z

As Christian leaders, pastors, educators and parents, we want what’s best for our kids. We want to see them grow up and follow Jesus for a lifetime. Unfortunately, many Christian teenagers are simply unprepared for the world that is waiting for them. We all know students who have drifted, become disillusioned or just walked away from the faith. It has been said that “Teenagers are the most misunderstood people on planet earth. They are treated like children but asked to behave like adults.” Discover how this generation interacts with church—why they’re leaving and how you can bring them back.

11. Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age

Evangelism has changed in the past quarter century. The ways Christians share, how often they engage in spiritual conversations and their goals for sharing faith are different. And in a culture where relativism is the norm and fewer believe in absolute truth, the attitudes and responses of those who hear the gospel have also evolved.

12. The Porn Phenomenon

Pornography is pervasive, permeating our culture from shop windows to web ads, premium cable shows to smartphone apps. Where once it was kept literally under wraps, used furtively in secret and shame, porn is now a standard feature of everyday life, seen by most teens and young adults as less morally offensive than failing to recycle. The Porn Phenomenon is an assessment of the cultural place of pornography today, based on a survey of existing social science research and nearly 3,000 new interviews with U.S. teens, adults and Protestant church leaders.

 

Feature image by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash.

The post Let’s Talk Technology: Barna Resources that Explore Findings from the Digital Age appeared first on Barna Group.

Guest Column: Behind the Steep Decline in Church Attendance Among Women

Wed, 04/03/2020 - 6:00pm

A reading that I always put on the syllabus of my Senior Capstone course is by one of the world’s preeminent scholars of international law, Anne-Marie Slaughter. However, the topic of her essay isn’t related to political science, but instead something more practical: the idea of work-life balance. She titled this seminal work “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” a 2012 article that details how, though she felt it was her civic duty to serve her country in the State Department during President Obama’s first term in office, she struggled with the reality that she would be putting a lot of the childcare responsibilities on her spouse.

This is a struggle most young people, especially young women, confront today. While societal norms about parenting and professional responsibilities are glacially shifting toward more equality, raising kids is still seen by many to be “women’s work.” This puts many women in an untenable situation; data indicate that as women have become more involved in the workplace, their responsibilities at both home and church have not abated. The reality is that society is asking women to do it all, but each day still has the same 24 hours.

According to Barna’s research among practicing Christians in the Households of Faith report, mothers are more likely to provide encouragement, advice and sympathy to their teenagers than fathers. Teenagers are also more likely to seek out their mothers more often than their fathers to discuss faith, the Bible and things that bother them. On a variety of dimensions of activity, these Christian women appear to be more present in the lives of their children than men.

Beyond the household, how are women present as part of a church family? I wanted to get a clear picture of the gender breakdown of people in the pews on an average Sunday in the United States. The data from the last 16 years tells an interesting story. Women were consistently more likely than men to attend church weekly in the 2000’s. However, two important trends have emerged since 2012. The first is that attendance has declined significantly for both men and women. However, the rate of decline for female respondents is much more dramatic.

In 2009, 48 percent of women attended church at least once a week, but, in less than a decade, the share has dropped to 31 percent. During the same period of time the share of men who attended church at least weekly declined 12 percentage points. While there used to be a gender gap in attendance, that is clearly no longer than case.

But that may be coming to an end. It’s no secret that the rate of the religiously unaffiliated has risen significantly in the last 30 years, and church attendance has declined as well. However, this trend is not consistent across gender or age groups. To test that, I calculated the average church attendance of both men and women 18–35-years-old as well as those over the age of 35. The results are disheartening.

It’s clear that the average level of church attendance is down for all groups, but the rate of decline is much steeper for women, particularly those in the older age group. In 2003, half of women 35 and older attended church once a week; by 2019, that declined to just three in 10. While attendance has also declined among older men, the decline is far less significant. For women younger than 35, they have always been more likely to be weekly attenders, but the rate of decline is similar. In 2019, 26 percent of women under the age of 35 were actively churched, which is five percentage points lower than their older female counterparts.

Men used to lag behind women in both age groups. The gap between the two genders hovered around 8 percentage points in 2003 for younger women and 11 percentage points for older women. Something notable occurred among both age groups in recent years—the gender gap essentially disappeared. In fact, the data indicate that women are no more likely to be actively churched in 2020 than men. That’s largely due to men’s rate of decline slowing, while the women’s trend line continues to move downward at a consistent pace. This is clearly a worrisome finding.

Why is this happening? It’s nearly impossible to point to one causal mechanism. As previously noted, many women are being asked to do more at work, more with their family and more with the community. For many, this has become overwhelming, and church can often seem like the easiest commitment to walk away from. It could also be that women are beginning to vote with their feet in the wake of sexual abuse scandals that are rocking the Southern Baptist Convention and the Catholic Church, or as a reaction to many churches’ positions on female leadership.

In a study conducted by Barna about Christians at Work, the data indicate that women are less likely than men to believe that they are using their unique talents and gifts to serve outside the workplace (24% vs 31%). That should sound an alarm bell for ministry leaders.

Here are a few possible suggestions for churches to consider.

Churches need to be intentional about speaking holistically to the value of women’s calling. It would be encouraging for women to hear messages that focused on followers of Christ living out their purpose—in the home, the workplace and the church.

Every church, regardless of theological positions on gender roles, can find more ways to include women in the life of the congregation. Nominating or events committees should be encouraged to make sure that their gender distribution reflects that of the larger congregation.

However, churches need to be mindful that women are already juggling a lot of responsibilities in their home and work lives. Therefore, church leaders need to think carefully about what opportunities they create for women in their congregation. Ideal volunteer opportunities would be those that tap into their unique spiritual gifts, without making one feel overburdened. This will enhance the life of the church as well as give women a sense of personal fulfillment.

Learn more about the methodology for these studies here

Dr. Ryan Burge is an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University. He has published over a dozen articles in peer-reviewed academic journals as well co-founded the website Religion in Public, which is a platform for social scientists to make their work accessible to a wider audience. He is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Mt. Vernon, Illinois.

Feature image by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The post Guest Column: Behind the Steep Decline in Church Attendance Among Women appeared first on Barna Group.

A Barna Team Member Reflects on 25+ Years in Research

Wed, 19/02/2020 - 6:00pm

Barna Group, founded by George Barna in 1984, has long aided the Church in understanding cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. Though much has changed in the field of social research since its beginning over three decades ago, Barna has kept up with advances in technology and analytics, ensuring reliable data that faith leaders can use to understand the times.

A big part of Barna’s success in this field is due to our dedicated research team, now led by Brooke Hempell. In an effort to understand more about Barna’s research process and how the company’s approach to collecting data has evolved over the years, we interviewed Barna’s senior research manager, Pam Jacob, who has been with the company for 26 years. As our State of the Church project begins to look back on decades’ worth of research, Pam reflects on her experiences collecting, analyzing and being impacted by that data.

Barna: When you first started at Barna Group, what was your role versus what is it now?

Pam: I was a part-time research assistant when I first started. I worked with the research manager and, believe it or not, it was just her and I in the research department, along with, of course, George Barna.

Barna: Looking back to your early years with the company, how was research conducted? Could you give me a brief overview from start to finish?

Pam: It’s really evolved at Barna since I started. Back then, George Barna would write the questionnaires and manage the clients, then pass it onto me at which point I would program the questionnaire, then work with the field center to interview people by telephone, run the data and send it back to George for the analysis. Then it would either be shared with the client, if it was a client-commissioned study, or analyzed for a Barna-released book, article or other medium.

It was like that from the time I started until probably 2010. Before that time, nearly all of the surveys were conducted by telephone. We also did what we called self-administered surveys where we would mail out a survey to the client, who would then distribute it to their audience, whether that be their donors, employees, youth groups or other audiences. We also created community surveys, where we’d actually mail hard copies of surveys to people within a certain geographic region for them to fill out and send back to us, at which point we would key-punch them all by hand before we could proceed with the analysis.

Primarily, though, the surveys were done via telephone—we would just call people up randomly and ask them to participate in a survey. We ran an in-house field center with as many as 35 callers for any one night who would interview people. Actually, that’s where David Kinnaman started. He was an intern at the time, going to school at Biola and then driving up to Glendale every night to supervise our field center.

Barna: Over the years, social research has seen drastic changes. What has it been like to keep up with those advances, especially moving into a digital age?

Pam: The biggest change I witnessed was when we started doing cell-phone interviewing by phone, and then online interviewing. This happened when people started switching over to cell phones and were becoming less available on their landlines.

Over the years, it’s just become harder and harder to conduct phone interviews. Conducting research over the phone is more expensive and it’s not as reliable as it used to be. When we first began interviewing by telephone, not only did cell phones not exist, caller-ID didn’t exist. Today the majority of households no longer have a landline telephone, and most phones, whether a cell phone or landline, have caller-ID. Because people are likely to reject a call from a number they are unfamiliar with, you’re only getting people who answer their phones, which means you are only interviewing a specific group of the population, which is not representative of the general population as a whole.

Barna: One thing that we will keep coming back to as we continue to look at the State of the Church 2020 project is Barna’s decades of tracking data. Can you tell us more about that?

Pam: In our general population studies and PastorPollsSM, we ask the same questions about demographics, theolographics and certain attitudes in every study we conduct. Not only does this allow us to use the same criteria to segment the data during analysis, but we can also compare the data to results from other studies or to data from previous years. This allows us to see how the data has changed over the years.

That’s basically what tracking data is; it’s the same question asked multiple times in a similar manner for comparison purposes. Also, merging these same data points together gives us a larger sample size  so that we can do additional segmentation. We might use combined data for the same question to drill down in greater detail among a certain population segment in which we wouldn’t have enough data to analyze in our typical survey of 1,000 interviews. Combining datasets also allows us to decrease the overall error rate and improve the confidence we can have in the data when you’re looking at 5,000 interviews instead of just 1,000.

Barna: Share a fun fact about data.

Pam: I think some people question how we can survey a thousand people and call that representative of a population. Of course, we talk about the error rates, but if you do a study well, it is representative. In the example I gave earlier of 1,000 interviews, the error rate is plus or minus 3 percentage points. That means, if we repeated this same study, we can expect the results to be the same with 3 percentage points higher or lower than the original data.

It’s really affirming that there is validity to what we do because when we repeat it, we get the same numbers. So, that’s pretty fun and interesting.

Barna: In your time here, what has been a turning point for you as a researcher in terms of how you see the world or your faith?

Pam: Well, the faith one is easy: I wasn’t a Christian when I started here. I was going to Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) with Nancy, George’s wife, who had also invited me to her church which I attended a couple of times. Within the first month of working at Barna, I worked on one of our OmniPolls, in which we asked tracking questions like, “Do you believe the Bible is without error?” or “Do you believe that Jesus sinned?” I realized I didn’t know the answers to these questions.  There was also a section to test respondents’ Bible knowledge, and I didn’t know the answers to those either.

The director of research who I first worked under, Cindy, asked, “Do you have a Bible?” I responded that I didn’t. She said, “Well, I would be willing to get you one, and then we can meet before work and talk about some of these questions that you have.” I also started to go to church more with Nancy and then, three months later, I accepted the Lord. It was hard not to; I mean, I was surrounded by Christians doing Christian work.

Also, coming from a non-Christian upbringing, while I understand how the unchurched think, I have a passion for those who have fallen away from faith. More and more people are growing up in households like the one I grew up in, where we considered ourselves to be Christian but never attended church and never read the Bible.  It saddens me to see the number of people who consider themselves to be Christian but whose active faith is declining. It is exciting to be part of Barna and have the opportunity to inform the church of this decline and hopefully equip them with better tools to reach people for Christ.

Pam Jacob, Senior Research Manager

 

The post A Barna Team Member Reflects on 25+ Years in Research appeared first on Barna Group.

OneHope President Rob Hoskins on Technology as a Tremendous Tool

Mon, 10/02/2020 - 6:00pm

The impact of technology is pervasive among younger generations. Our challenge as digital transplants is meeting kids where they already are… which for most, is online.

Knowing this, we connected with Barna to do a joint study on the main factors guiding children in their faith journey. This study takes a deeper look into the faith formation of children, considering our ever-changing cultural and technological landscape.

This study revealed that even though tech is pervasive, most parents and churches aren’t leveraging it for Bible engagement. This is clearly seen in our findings that show a substantial dip in Bible engagement for 10–12-year-olds. Right as they enter an age where they are ready for more, we’re giving them less.

Despite young people’s heavy tech use, insights from the Guiding Children report revealed that 75 percent of engaged Christian parents do not use digital resources to encourage scripture engagement for their tweens and teens.

Our mission at OneHope is to share God’s Word with every child. We feel called to reach children wherever they are. If they are in the digital realm, then tech is where we are going to meet them.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said, “Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”

We’ve seen this to be true as we launched the Bible App for Kids in partnership with YouVersion in 2013. As we started talking about developing a digital scripture engagement tool, these critical goals started to form. We knew:

  • We needed a digital tool to boost scripture engagement
  • There was a gap in scripture engagement for younger children
  • We wanted to be able to take God’s Word to places it had never gone before—the corners of cyberspace or across borders into countries where physical copies of the Bible were not allowed

Since launching the app, we have seen:

  • More than 35 million installs
  • More than 790,000 installs in World Watch List countries in 2018
  • OneHope’s 1.5 billionth child encountered God’s Word by installing the Bible App for Kids in a Middle Eastern country in February 2019
  • Bible App for Kids available in the languages spoken in 50 of the 68 countries in the 10/40 Window

The Bible App for Kids is now available in 50 languages and has been downloaded in every country in the world—every country! We could never have expected that app usage would surge like this among kids ages 1-6 around the world. We’re so grateful that the digital platform has been a powerful tool to spread the Gospel on a global scale, and we don’t plan to stop exploring the potential of digital initiatives in ministry anytime soon.

Even though the world and technology will continue to change, the biblical mandate to shepherd our children will not. Let’s recommit ourselves to using whatever means necessary to develop spiritual formation and faith development tools to feed our kids from the richness of God’s Word. Leaning into digital resources is not only a win for your family, it’s also a win for global missions.

It’s up to us to reclaim the digital space. Technology is merely a tool to be harnessed and used for good. It has no purpose or power on its own, only what we assign it.

We have been given generational and geographic favor to live in this exciting time. It’s our job to leverage the tools we have been given to be useful for growing the Kingdom.

“Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15, ESV). It’s time to go into all the world, both physical and digital, and bring the good news to all creation, wherever they are.

To learn more, visit robhoskins.com.

Feature image by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

The post OneHope President Rob Hoskins on Technology as a Tremendous Tool appeared first on Barna Group.

Hettie Brittz on the Stages of Children’s Spiritual Development

Wed, 29/01/2020 - 6:00pm

Below is an excerpt from Guiding Children to Discover the Bible, Navigate Technology & Follow Jesus, a new Barna report exploring children’s spiritual development in a technological age. Hettie’s insights accompany new Barna research on what pastors and parents can do to help children build a healthy and lasting foundation in Christ.

Hettie Britz is developer of the Evergreen Parenting Course and heads a group of more than 200 facilitators in eight countries who use the course to help families. She is married to the Gospel singer and music producer Louis Brittz, and they have three children.

Stages of Spiritual Development

Spiritual development is closely tied to moral development phases—how growing children process the ideas of right and wrong, safe and unsafe, good and bad. These are very abstract concepts for a while and only become concrete later in childhood.

From ages 3 to 5 there’s a phase of wonder. Kids are very much impressed by the miracles God can do. It’s almost a magical phase—where the stories about the miracles of Christ, the plagues or Samson’s strength really grab their attention. Kids see God almost like a superhero with incredible powers. During this time, they need to be taught how the wonder points to the inner powers, such as love, that makes God better than any superhero.

The 5-year-old starts getting ready to understand some of that and the 6-year-old, depending on their development and personality, can move onto a next phase that’s very, very different. (Six-year-olds are right on “the crack” between the two spiritual developmental phases on either side.)

The years from 6 to 10 are almost ruled by fear. Kids become acutely aware of how real dangers are in the world around them. They become aware of illness. It’s the age when parents start telling them, “We’re not going to grandma’s because she is sick.” Parents start talking about death. Children are more exposed, more active out of the house. They see the world a bit more clearly. During this time, one of their primary felt needs is to know, “How can God protect me?” The world has become so much bigger, so they want to know how “big” God is and how his power can help them.

This is a phase when we sometimes think children are too small to deal with difficult truths, so we are tempted to give them a false foundation. This is an extreme example, but something along the lines of, “If you pray Psalm 91 before you go to bed, then the bad guys can’t come into the house.” We try to give them concrete guarantees of safety, but that undermines faith when people do die. Not everybody we pray for gets healed and things don’t always go smoothly. In this phase, we need to understand that they could develop a very unhelpful fear of God because of this propensity to be afraid.

Then, from age 11 onward, there is a stronger focus on morality. There is an acute awareness of sin, uncertainty whether they are good enough for God. Usually they want to know what “the rules” are. They regard faith as making the right choices, believing the right things, having the right information and living right. Right, right, right.

This is a wonderful phase for them to be introduced to concepts of grace, forgiveness, confession and the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to live the Christian life. It’s really in this phase they can get their heads around Jesus dying on the cross for us in very meaningful ways. Earlier on it’s almost a little too scary and too concrete, and kids who are exposed to the crucifixion of Christ in a very graphic manner before that age often go into extreme guilt about what “they” have done to Christ, personally and individually, unless they are guided carefully through that.

When we as parents demonstrate both God’s justice and his forgiveness in consistent ways in that phase from 10 to 12, it is the best spiritual gift we can give our children.

Feature image by Ben White on Unsplash

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10 Data-Driven Resources to Help Pastors Lead on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Wed, 15/01/2020 - 6:00pm

In light of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, taking place this year on January 20, Barna wanted to offer a list of resources for pastors and ministry leaders to access in preparation for sermons, programs and community events surrounding the historic significance of this day. MLK Day provides a crucial opportunity for Christians to be ministers of healing and justice, and we hope the years’ worth of Barna research offered below may be helpful as you and your ministry continue to understand the context of the conversations surrounding racism, social justice and reconciliation taking place around the country and within the Church.

  1. Half of Practicing Christians Say History of Slavery Still Impacts the U.S.

Barna asked respondents whether they agree the history of slavery in the U.S. still has a significant impact on black Americans today. Half of practicing Christians (50%) “mostly or totally” acknowledge ongoing repercussions, slightly ahead of the proportion of the general population who feel this way (46%). Just over a quarter of practicing Christians (28%) says the U.S. has moved past this shameful part of its history, also on par with the national average (28%).

  1. What Is the Church’s Role in Racial Reconciliation?

How should the Church respond in light of our nation’s 400-year history of injustices against black people? Though responses were fairly distributed, and multiple responses were allowed, 28 percent of practicing Christians say “there’s nothing the Church should do.” A full third of white practicing Christians (33%) selects this option, double the percentage of black practicing Christians who feel this way (15%). Instead, the plurality of black respondents (33%) has a clear next step in mind: repairing the damage.

  1. U.S. Adults Believe Hate Speech Has Increased—Mainly Online

A large majority of American adults says the amount of hate crime and hate speech (meaning, speech or crimes that are motivated by racial, sexual or other prejudice) has changed in the past five years; seven in 10 (70%) say this behavior has increased. Most attribute the change to the fact that politicians are encouraging or feeding this trend (65%). Similar majorities say social media and the internet have amplified it (62%) or that it is driven by America becoming increasingly more divided as a country (61%). More than half say the internet has provided a forum for hate groups to multiply (57%), that hate crime has increased because the news has drawn attention to it (54%) or even that it has become more socially acceptable to publicly treat others with prejudice (51%). Four in 10 believe increased diversity in America has caused fear or prejudice (37%). Only a few respondents say religious organizations amplify hatred (16%).

  1. Q&A on Racial Reconciliation with David Bailey

David M. Bailey is the founder and executive director of Arrabon, a ministry that equips churches and organizations to engage in the ministry of reconciliation with cultural intelligence. He is an active speaker, consultant and strategist for many national organizations. In an interview with Barna for 2017’s The State of Pastors project, Bailey offers wisdom about acknowledging cultural blind spots in ministry.

  1. Racial Divides in Spiritual Practice

Why do lingering divisions exist in the Church, the very communities built on the promise of forgiveness and reconciliation? Finding racial unity in a congregation is a complex task that requires a deep recognition of racial differences in how Christians understand and express their faith. Here, Barna examines the divergent ways in which black and white Christians approach discipleship, individually and collectively.

  1. Latasha Morrison on Racial Tension, Reconciliation and the Church

In 2017, Latasha Morrison, a bridge-builder, reconciler, fellow abolitionist and compelling voice in the fight for racial justice, sat down with Mark Matlock to talk about her book, Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation. When asked about the Church’s role in racial reconciliation, Latasha notes, “I think the Church is supposed to be a place of healing and a distinctive and transformative voice in this conversation, but instead, as the Church, we’re seeing that we’re actually a part of the problem—we’re bringing chaos, turmoil and hurt into a lot of the conversations, versus healing and restoration. I think a lot of this is because we have centered the conversation on politics versus the message of Jesus, the gospel…. We need to start [the conversation] with Jesus and end with Jesus.”

  1. Black Lives Matter and Racial Tension in America

In 2016, as Black Lives Matter gained momentum, a Barna study showed the movement was met with a mixed response. Millennials were most likely to support the message of Black Lives Matter (45%), but this support decreased with age (24% among Gen X, 20% among Boomers and 15% among Elders). The outliers were evangelicals and Republicans (especially compared to Democrats), both of which were significantly less likely than the general population to support the movement (13% of evangelicals and 7% of Republicans compared to 27% of all adults).

  1. Americans’ Views of Police Brutality

Also in 2016, Barna found that a slim majority of Americans agreed that police unfairly target people of color and other minority groups. More than half of all adults (53%) either somewhat or strongly agreed with the statement. Barna also asked about individual experience—whether respondents personally live in fear of police brutality. Most (78%) said they either probably or definitely do not live in fear of police brutality. The deepest divides though—for both questions—exist along lines of generation, ethnicity and religion.

  1. Learn About a Globally Minded Generation Longing to Address Injustice

On September 10, 2019, The Connected Generation project launched with the Faith for the Future webcast, a live, free event where leaders from Barna and World Vision revealed main findings—some sobering, some hopeful—uncovered by this global study. The team was joined by panels of experts and ministers as well as viewers from 88 countries and six continents. One of the key findings from this study uncovered the connected generation’s concern about issues such as racism and inequality, and offered insights on how the pursuit of justice factors into their identity and spirituality.

  1. Where Do We Go from Here?

This special report assesses the nation’s reputation of racism, past and present. Through articles, infographics and commentary, Where Do We Go from Here? is intended to bring context to important conversations and contribute to a broader understanding of race relations in our present moment.

Feature image by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

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Tracking the Growth and Decline of Religious Segments: The Rise of Atheism

Tue, 14/01/2020 - 6:00pm

For over 30 years, the Church has trusted Barna’s data and insights to help leaders know their city and effectively minister within their context. While in years past Barna offered printed reports on cities, states and the nation, all of this data plus more is now housed on FaithView, an online Barna tool that allows subscribers to sort, filter and extract custom data specific to their mission and relevant to their area.

One of FaithView’s key features is data tracking, offering users a look at religious trends recorded by Barna over the last 18 years and providing invaluable insights into the growth and decline of various segmentations, whether filtered by generation, denomination, faith segments and more.

In recent reports, Barna (and other researchers) have noted that Christianity is on a steady decline while Americans’ identification with atheism continues to increase. Barna tracking data show that in 2003, just a little over one in 10 Americans claimed to be atheist, agnostic or of no religion (“none”) (11%), while over eight in 10 identified as Christian (across Barna’s faith segments, this included 7% evangelicals, 33% non-evangelical born again and 41% nominal Christians) and less than one in 10 affiliated with other faiths (8%).

Percentage points for all religious segments saw little to no shift over a decade, from 2003 to 2012—but by 2018, Christianity in the United States had witnessed a significant loss of followers, from 81 percent in 2003 to 72 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, the atheist / agnostic / none segment has seen the greatest increase of all groups analyzed, nearly doubling in size from 11 percent in 2003 to 21 percent in 2018.

Note: FaithView tracking data offers analytics in three-year bundles, as seen in the chart above, with the last year included in the bundled labeling the group. This allows Barna to offer a more robust sample size and effectively note data trends and changes over the years.

So, what is leading Americans to shy away from not only Christianity but other religions as well?

Barna has identified a number of trends that might attribute to this move toward secularization, which may spark concern for the spiritual well-being of the next generation. Among young adults, Gen Z teens are much less likely to assert religious identity than generations before them; some of the rise in atheism could be attributed to Gen Z entering adulthood, and the fact that they are, thus far, significantly more likely than older generations to claim no faith. Additionally, faith-sharing is falling out of favor with younger adults, even religious ones; almost half of practicing Christian Millennials (47%) believe that evangelism is wrong. Across the generations, three in 10 Gen X (27%) and one in five Boomers (19%) and Elders (20%) share this sentiment.

In a Q&A published in Reviving Evangelism, a Barna report conducted in partnership with Alpha USA, Dr. Mary Healy, Professor of Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, notes, “Many people in our time are affected by a kind of spiritual numbness. Beginning from childhood, they’ve been overstimulated, over-scheduled, over-indulged and overexposed to sexual content. They’ve been taught that self-fulfillment, sexual freedom and economic success are the highest values. So, they often seem to have lost interest in the most important questions of life: Why do I exist? What is my mission in life and how do I fulfill it? What is true love and how do I find it?”

“Many people today show indifference to these deeper questions, but no matter what, those questions are there beneath the surface,” Dr. Healy notes. “There’s no replacement for a real encounter with God’s power and the holiness of his people.”

Indeed, Barna studies have shown that personal connections to Christians can be even more impactful than experiences with the Church at large. Dr. Healy concludes, “I’ve seen again and again that when we are willing to take risks in faith as we evangelize, the Lord backs us up through the power of the Holy Spirit. The gospel is a message in words that addresses the human being’s capacity for truth, but it is also a message of power that brings people into a personal encounter with Jesus.”

This article was written using tracking data from Barna’s FaithView tool and research published in Reviving Evangelism, a Barna study conducted in partnership with Alpha USA. Subscribe to FaithView to discover current statistics relevant to your area, region or the nation. Purchase a copy of Reviving Evangelism to learn about the state of evangelism in America and compare the faith-sharing experiences of Christians and non-Christians

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The post Tracking the Growth and Decline of Religious Segments: The Rise of Atheism appeared first on Barna Group.

Another Look at The Connected Generation: U.S. Country Report Now Available

Fri, 10/01/2020 - 3:03am

Barna’s largest project yet, The Connected Generation, conducted in partnership with World Vision, includes survey responses from 15,369 individuals in 25 countries and nine languages, offering faith leaders both a broader and more focused lens with which to understand young adults. While The Connected Generation gives a global overview of 18–35-year-olds around the world, Barna also set out to provide more specific profiles of the regions and nations surveyed for this project. These reports offer localized insights on the connectivity levels and religious disposition of Millennials and Gen Z in the 25 countries included in The Connected Generation, building upon the themes explored at a global level.

Through country-specific data and analysis, expert commentary and actionable field guides, the country reports help faith leaders begin to apply the research in their local ministries and communities. The United States report, now available, adds global comparisons and new dimensions to Barna’s decades of research on the state of faith in America. Featured contributors include pastors and leaders such as Sam Collier, Jeanne Stevens, Eugene Cho, Jason Ballard and Edgar Sandoval, Sr.

These local snapshots from Barna’s largest study to date began rolling out in November 2019, as Barna president David Kinnaman joined World Vision and regional experts in Australia and New Zealand for a series of live events contextualizing the findings from the global study and the launch of the Australia / New Zealand country report.

What are leaders gleaning from these more focused findings and field guides?

“The Barna / World Vision partnership and subsequent roadshow was a unique experience for World Vision in NZ,” says Jonathan Fletcher, Head of Partnerships and Community Growth for World Vision New Zealand. “We were able to support and enhance the mission of the church in ways many didn’t expect.  As an expression of the church, we need the Church to be healthy and growing.  The insights from the research were alarming, but David Kinnaman’s ability to communicate them in ways that were tangible, and hopeful were profound.  Christian leaders of every denomination were left with an awareness of the enormity of the challenge but equipped with tools and inspired with hope to arrest its inevitability.”

“Christian leaders owe a big ‘thank you’ to Barna and World Vision for providing data that backs up what many of us suspected: Millennials are leaving the Church (or staying well clear of) in even greater numbers than their parents did,” adds Sam Bloore, Senior Teaching Fellow and Residential Host for Venn Foundation. “But we owe perhaps the biggest ‘thank you’ to those Millennials themselves, who have had the spiritual and emotional honesty to give us a timely warning that much of our church activity and focus has drifted away from that which produces resilient disciples of Jesus. The silver lining to the data is that the slow, unsexy work of discipleship—that allows the depth and richness of the gospel to work its way into and through a whole life—does still work! Just as it has for over 2000 years.” 

For more information on country reports or to view analysis for your area, visit theconnectedgeneration.com, which will be updated throughout the year as more country reports are released. Visit the Barna shop to order your own copy of a country report.

If you haven’t already, watch the Faith for the Future webcast (available for free replay until March 1, 2020) to discover more key findings from The Connected Generation study. You can purchase the report or access a suite of related resources at theconnectedgeneration.com.

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